Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Classics

I bought a can of Vienna cocktail wieners today.

When my sister was 7 and I was 5, my mother slammed a ban on all snack food. Our house would harbor no chips, Doritos, M&M’s. No Oreos, Little Debbie’s, no Sarah Lee. “Have a lovely carrot,” my mom would say, or “Mmm, this apple looks delicious.”

In our school lunch sacks, we slogged thick slabs of Slavic-sounding goodness topped with roast beef, horseradish, and country cheddar. No one would trade with us, of course.

My mom’s moratorium lasted until my brother made it to solid foods and he refused anything but Ho-Ho’s and Ding-Dongs. “He’s so thin; I can’t let him starve.”

But my sister and I, we grew up prisoners of the pumpernickel.

Except once every other month.

My parent’s bi-monthly cocktail party featured canap├ęs, candies, little puff pastries filled with creamy seafood. My sister and I were trotted out early on to pass the Planter’s. “Oh, honey, why don't you have just one,” someone would say. “Oh no,” we’d reply, loud enough for our mom to hear. “We’re not allowed. These are for you.”

“Aren’t you just the sweetest thing,” they’d sigh.

Soon my sister and I would retire to our bedroom and fall asleep listening to the waves of cocktail chatter. Bah-bah-bah-AHHHH HA HA HA HA-bah-bah-bah.

Early Sunday morning, we'd hit the ground running, straight to the living room. First on the menu was anything in a gray cocktail glass. The metallic glasses held the sweet drinks. In retrospect, I suppose the drink was a combination of gin and cherry liqueur, made particularly for ladies who didn’t like the taste of alcohol. We’d drain whatever was left in any glass, and find the tray with the reserves and drain those, too. Then, grabbing two fist fulls of cocktail nuts, we’d search for the holy grail: Vienna cocktail wieners.

How to describe a Vienna cocktail wiener? It’s almost baby food, shaped like a tiny sausage, about the size of a child's big toe, smooth as silk and full of salt and grease that melts in your mouth. You don’t even have to chew it, you just projectile it down your throat.

We'd wind up the morning with a digestif. The caramel drinks with fruit in them were pleasantly sweet and sour; the trick was to take a sip, hold it in your mouth and chomp the maraschino cherry before you swallowed. We had to hurry because it was getting late. We weren’t sure which would get us in greater trouble – eating snacks, or drinking from glasses that had other people’s germs.

During one of our orgies, our infant brother started to cry. Danger, danger. We rushed to his room. My sister knew her way around a diaper and began the changing process. But this time, his whatzit pointed directly to the ceiling and spewed like a fountain. I left the clean-up to her, because for some reason I was giggling and hiccupping at the same time and couldn’t stop either.

I imagine, stuffed with the goodness of Vienna and Kentucky and Scotland, we went back to bed to sleep it off. I can’t say for sure though, because my recollections get a bit fuzzy at this point.

Proust never had that problem, but then, all he worried about was one soggy French cookie. Just think what he could have done with a tiny weenie.


  1. probably the only time the phrase 'projectile it down your throat' has appeared in print.

    WV: unwormit

    Even when I ate meat I made it a general rule not to eat meat from cans. :-)

  2. Sounds like the beginning of an AA testimony

    "whats said here stays here" hear hear (followed by a round of applause)

  3. You were deprived??
    I love the 'hit the ground running' image. Better than Christmas morning, I bet!

  4. What a great story!
    The morning after part was hilarious...

  5. ROFL...can't talk...laughing too hard.

    You are truly a riot & a gem.

  6. I grew up suffering from the Only Child Syndrome. I got anything in the way of food and had cavities to prove it. Our kids felt the same deprivation as you. They got one box of sugared cereal a year for their birthday.

    I love Vienna sausages! But, they somehow don't taste as good as when I was a kid. I think my taste buds have aged too much to appreciate the flavors.

  7. Another great post where you plunder your past, as you put it earlier. The cocktail party images brought me way back, although I can't say my sisters and I were quite as adventurous as you and your sis with the drinks. Not sure I've ever had Vienna sausages. Am I deprived? It was pigs in a blanket at our house.

  8. Wow. I love the unintended consequences as they unfold.

  9. Yikes you were a scary child.....I think we might have been two of a kind;)

  10. Let's nail down the pronunciation right now.
    It's VIE- eeeena, NOT Vienna as in Austria , Missy.

    And of course that do make VIEeeena's for babies today. They call them Meat Sticks! :) Same diff.

    Well if we'd been Sisters, which is a tantalizing thought to ponder, I'd have taken you to the mat over a glass of "the goodness of Kentucky" :)

    Another winner KB>

  11. Wayne, I won't tell you how much I love tinned corned beef from Argentina.

    PA: More like JA. I grew up obsessed with junk food.

    Brenda & Pat: I'd say, very likely better than Christmas.

    Back at you, Carolynn.

    Ok, Pierre. Did you give them coal at Christmas?

    Susan, I only got to eat those at sleepovers, but, oh, heaven.

    Linda, good thing we grew up a country apart.

    Virg, Vie-eeeena. You gave me the hiccups.

  12. This is so funny, I came back to read it again. Thanks.

  13. I remember such parties, but ours had olives. I would put one on each finger, and they were so adorable there I was always sure I would like them. But -- every time -- I was shocked at how much I really did not.

  14. "Just think what he could have done with a tiny weenie." You are the queen of the closer, Karin.

  15. My parents had those cocktail parties, too, but mom must've cleaned up because there were no goodies in the morning. We loved Vienna sausages, though, and ate them for lunch occasionally with Ritz crackers. Canned corned beef hash is still a (very occasional) guilty pleasure. ;-)

    I do remember the fun of arriving home after school on the day my mom had hosted the bridge club.

    Jordan almonds, Swedish mints, all kinds of nuts and cookies. I even poured myself a cup of leftover coffee with lots of cream in it. Heaven!

  16. You said you bought them, KB, but you didn't say you ate them. I remember loving baloney and mayo sandwiches but the last time I tried that I gagged. The memory of those low adult voices downstairs as I fell asleep, that'll always be a comfort.

  17. ok, you've now confirmed to my OT therapists that I am certifiable! Was reading this as they had a hot pack on me and I burst out laughing! tiny weenie!

    my parents had parties too. but to explain I was a little tightly wrapped was an understatement. I saw what their partying did to them and their friends (evidenced by their being passed out the next morning etc). I didn't dare touch that stuff in the glasses. I think that's where I learned to hate gin! adn the food was good, but I too was never allowed to eat it right out of the oven. I was however known, as you were, to sneak some, either after the party died down, or early the next morning. It certainly was easier than fixing myself breakfast. Somehow, phyllo cheese twists the next morning don't have the same pizzazz, but they weren't bad.

    I've never had a VIE-eeeena sausage. but my Grammie used to make deviled ham sandwiches. didn't care for them much then and one time, years ago I attempted to make such a sandwich...even when my palate wasn't as advanced as it is now, I gagged and couldn't eat it. am sure, like the sausages, they seemed a good idea at the time, but ooof, really? what part of WHAT animal did this come from?!?!

    wv: punksne

  18. “A lovely carrot.” There’s an oxymoron straight out of the Mom Dictionary. Not to mention the setup for “tiny weenie.”

    A child’s big toe??!!! Now I’m a latent cannibal for liking those things?

    And now that you’ve said “tiny weenie,” are you, uh, satisfied? Or did you mean to inform us that Proust had a big weenie?

  19. Dez, the best intentions...

    Jean, it's the least I can do for you.

    Margaret, I remember that.

    Karen and Havisham: I remember the bridge parties, hovering like a vulture over the cracked crab.

    Paula and Trish, yes, I ate them for my art. And felt a little sick afterwards.

    Terry and Banjo, I was just saying that even small weenies can be unforgettable.

  20. I did sound a bit like Scrooge. They had all the birthday and Christmas gifts associated with those days. They had non-sugared cereal when they wanted it. The stuff with sugar was a bonus on thier special days. We also had "Poison Sundays" when any snaks were game, except the cereal.

    They used to complain when they didn't get their sugared box on their birthday well into their twenties.

  21. Great sense imagery!

    Two commentors beat me to the punch with canned deviled ham, and Argentine canned beef? Dang, girl!
    Take me back...
    It would be just too good if the WV was LEFSE.

  22. You brought back memories, KB, of my parents' parties. They would have dinner parties for as many as 50. They hired Brady, a black gentleman who worked for my dad as the bartender, and his wife, Mary, who helped my mom in the kitchen. My brothers and I served as bartenders. Our job was to take drink orders to Brady and then deliver the libations. I recall my dad, who worked in the beer business for many years, saying that you couldn't get drunk on beer. His good friend Jack Banta proved him wrong. One time I went to bed and found my dad passed out on my bed. We also were responsible for emptying the ashtrays into the "silent butler,", a silver tray with a lid used for that purpose.

    Funny stuff.

  23. Paula,
    I love a good baloney and mayo sandwich with a titch of mustard. Thanks for reminding me.

    My Aunt Lena ( I called her Lenie) had canasta parties. The smoke was so thick you couldn't find the nuts!

    KB, teeny weenies can be unforgettable huh? Really.

  24. Ah, the joys of being an adult ~ buying a can of cocktail wieners and eating it at leisure, with no secondary germ issues.

  25. I googled Silent Butler and found this

    Quite the collectable. My mom hated smoke in the house, so she put out very few ashtrays. But guests always found a substitute.

  26. A tiny weenie? Who's to say Proust wasn't trying to work through that right along with his madeleines?

  27. omigod the teeny weenie...and the firing squad? you kill me, constantly

  28. Did you know that you can buy those "toes" barbecued?

  29. Lordy I know all about a Silent Butler. I was dumping butts for Aunt Lenie after every canasta party.

    Girl, you kill me.

  30. I only deprived my kids of soda.

    I have had dental hygenists comment with amazement on the condition of the kids' teeth. So they may be mad at me for the deprivation, but it was worthwhile.

  31. I love this story! So much so, that I read it out loud to my husband, who was laughing out loud. And I adore that you guys sneaked around and drank the dregs with out parents knowing... hilarious. I'll bet the smell of cherry flavored drinks sends you right back. :)

  32. How nice! I've never seen this drink since, so I have to settle for le sausage.

  33. Hmm, just as well Proust didn't know about wieners. That dratted book would have been ten times as long.

    'prisoners of the pumpernickel'. Love it!

  34. This is a classic! And, so r u, KB.

  35. And to think I never knew that talk of vienna sausages could lead to anything this hilarious. :D

  36. I think this was one of your funniest AH!!! The visuals of the two of you racing out to the living room and downing those drink remains is hysterical!!!

    My mom's favorite food was hors d'oerves!!! And the only splurges we got!!! We never had ding dongs or any of that grandma always gave me her maraschino cherry out of her whiskey mom thought I liked that because I liked maraschino cherries!!!

  37. How could she have not known, Chieftess? I now have such a craving and will google cherry liqueur. Would make for an interesting Sunday morning.